The Bangkok Post:

The Civil Court on Friday ordered 13 leaders of the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to pay 522 million baht in damages to Airports of Thailand Plc (AoT) for the eight-day blockade of Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports in late 2008.

The court ruled on a lawsuit filed by the AoT on Nov 24, 2009.

The PAD core members led a large number of people to rally inside the two airports from Nov 26-Dec 3, 2008, during  their extended protest demanding the resignation of the then government under Somchai Wongsawat.

The court ruled that the seizure of the two international airports forced the suspension of air services, causing both physical and commercial damage to the AoT.

The 13 defendants are, therefore, ordered to pay the AoT 522 million baht damages, plus 7.5 per cent interest starting Dec 3, 2008 when the occupation of the airports ended.

BP: Actually, the PM’s Office when Abhisit came to power dropped the suit against the PAD for the damage caused to Government House, but the AOT pursued the case. PAD’s defence has always been they didn’t actually close the airport. Prachatai has a translation of an ASTV Manager story of Sondhi L’s testimony from December:

The People’s Alliance for Democracy held rallies at Bangkok’s airports to pressure a corrupt government, but did not close them, Sondhi Limthongkul insisted to the court.

In the PAD leaders’ view, the protests at the airports did not harm the aviation business, because the airports were not closed, and airplanes were allowed to take off or land as normal. The protesters gathered in the area called the ‘land side’, which had nothing to do with the taking off or landing of airplanes, and the leaders instructed protestors not to enter the ‘air side’, as they realized that encroachment into that area was against the law, Sondhi said.

Furthermore, the protesters allowed any persons to freely enter or leave the premises of both airports.  The PAD even helped negotiate for the Muslims to travel to Saudi Arabia for their pilgrimages, he said.

He said that it was Director of the AOT Serirat Prasutanond who ordered the closure of the airports.  He had no idea whether Serirat’s orders were in line with the International Civilian Aviation Convention or not, but he knew that the board of the AOT reprimanded Serirat for giving the orders without notifying them beforehand.

Kom Chad Luek has details of the 13 PAD leaders and they are as follows:

1. Chamlong Srimuang
2. Sondhi Limthongkul
3. Pipop Thongchai
4. Suriyasai Katasila
5. Somsak Kosaisuuk
6. Chaiwat Sinsuwong
7. Somkiat Pongpaiboon
8. Saranyu Wongkrachang
9. Samran Rodpet
10. Sirichai Maingarm
11. Maleerat Kaewka
12. Pipob Thongchai
13. Terdpom Jaidee

The Kom Chad Luek article also notes that the prosecution had 24 witnesses, compared with 15 for the defence. The court first ruled that AOT could bring a suit (โจทก์ใช้สิทธิที่พึงมี ฟ้องศาลได้ จึงเป็นการฟ้องโดยสุจริต). The Court ruled that while the airport was a public place, the first group of PAD protesters had masks, were wielding wooden and iron sticks, and swords, and closed public roads, and searched all cars entering, causing fear.

In addition, the plaintiff showed images and had witnesses testify that Samdin Lertbutr [an aide to Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang] seized the control room which was located in a restricted zone (นอกจากนี้ฝ่ายโจทก์ ยังมีพยานและภาพถ่ายเป็นหลักฐานว่า ร.ต.แซมดิน เลิศบุศย์ หนึ่งในผู้ชุมนุมได้นำกลุ่มพันธมิตรเข้ายึดหอบังคับการบิน ซึ่งอยู่ในพื้นที่การบินและเป็นเขตหวงห้ามบุคคลภายนอกเข้า) and this showed the intention was to close down airport services which was illegal interference.

BP: Things don’t look good for the PAD leaders on the criminal case if there are witnesses and images of the control room being seized, but then again red shirt leaders may face similar lawsuits as well….